As our brains and lives are overwhelmed with information, we find ourselves constantly looking for visual shortcuts to tell a story or convey a message quickly and effectively.
Within texts, emails, and iMessages, emojis are now ubiquitous. We communicate more effectively sometimes by incorporating illustrations into our typed memos–a far cry from the complexities of Egyptian hieroglyphs, but very much along the same line.
As designers, our job is to take whatever complex information is handed to us and not only make it visually appealing, but make it easy to understand (and as close to instantaneously as possible).
To do this, my team and I pull from Red Hat’s icon library—an ever-evolving yet beautifully consistent resource that speeds this process along.
The most incredible part about our icons is that despite the level of abstraction, some can convey very different messages when used in different contexts. This lends itself not only to a healthy design culture, where certain assets are not defined and rigid, but also to an open culture where interpretation is key.
Still, certain messages don’t have the perfect icon to accompany them. But by following a few basic rules, a new icon can be created, approved, hung among the others, and used by all creatives to tell the story they want to tell.
In the latest infographic I created, I used 5 different icons in the top half and 3 in the bottom. Our iconography typically lends itself to one specific action or item. However in the case of “Lift and Shift,” the icon used could easily convey growth or transparency in another context. Placed in a more atypical situation, we could use this icon to represent direction, or attribute it to hyper-specific actions taking place within a story.
It may be harder to communicate messages about technology using only iconography than it is to ask a friend to grab a drink via emoji, but our resource icon library is one of our most valuable assets. It’s clear enough to attach alongside text and strengthen a message, yet open enough to let certain icons have multiple meanings.
Next time you run across an infographic or notice a specific icon, pay attention to it—it may reappear with a new purpose in the future.